If recent reports are any indication, the New England Patriots are looking to pair QB Tom Brady with a true #1 receiver.
During the 2016 season, the Patriots inquired about acquiring WR DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick compares Hopkins to WR Larry Fitzgerald, which means he holds Hopkins in extremely high regard.
The Patriots claimed former Cardinals first round WR Michael Floyd off waivers, are interested in adding WR Brandon Marshall, and are now interested in trading a first round pick for Saints WR Brandin Cooks. Floyd is a former 1,000-yard receiver looking for a rebound year. Marshall is one of the most productive receivers of his generation and he’s looking for a Super Bowl ring. Cooks has generated 2,359 yard from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns on 162 receptions over the past two seasons.
There’s no way around it: the Patriots want a #1 receiver to take the already-scary offense to another level.
Hopkins won’t be leaving the Texans because he’s viewed as a cornerstone player, while Floyd and Marshall are boom-bust prospects.
But Cooks is an interesting option. Cooks is unhappy with his role with the Saints where he was primarily used “as a clear-out receiver” to open up lanes for other players. Cooks finished the season as the Saints leading receiver, but there were stretches where he was underutilized.
The 5’10, 190 pound cooks is an athletic freak with a 4.33 second 40 yard dash and 6.76 three cone time. His best physical comparison is former Patriots WR Deion Branch. He is just 23 years old and is three months younger than Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell.
The asking price for Cooks is a 2nd round pick, according to Sporting News’ Alex Marvez, and that the Patriots offer of the 32nd overall pick involved a pick swap, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The pick swap wasn’t enough to entice the Saints since they’re still looking for a swap-free first round pick or a defensive player in return.
Whether the Patriots land Cooks or Hopkins or Marshall will be determined in the future, but for now the storyline is that the Patriots want to acquire a #1 receiver for the offense- and they’re going after players ready to be #1 options now.
TE Rob Gronkowski is often injured, while WR Julian Edelman is a free agent after the 2017 season. WR Chris Hogan is a proven deep threat, but needs to expand his role in the Patriots offense, while WR Malcolm Mitchell is still developing. Add in RB James White and RB Dion Lewis and there are plenty of receiving options in the offense.
If everyone is healthy, the Patriots would add a #1 receiver to an offense already filled with #1 options, but the Patriots haven’t been able to pair fully healthy Gronkowski with a fully healthy Edelman since the first half of the 2015 season. Head coach Bill Belichick would rather add more insurance to the offensive skill positions.
Maybe Belichick is just throwing a bone to his friend Sean Payton and the Saints. Maybe the interest is real. There are only three roster locks at the wide receiver position for 2017 in Edelman, Hogan, and Mitchell. Danny Amendola will be a lock if he restructures, but perhaps the Patriots want to see if they can acquire a top player before striking a new deal with Amendola.
And even if that happens, the Patriots would ideally hold five receivers on the active roster. Whether that’s Floyd or Cooks or Bills WR Robert Woods remains to be seen. Until the roster is complete, the Patriots will keep making calls to teams with #1 receivers to see if they are on the market.